Jonathan Wainwright, the son of a cavalry officer, was born in Walla Walla, Washington, on 2nd August 1883. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1906 (25/78). He joined the 1st Cavalry Regiment and was sent to the Philippines in 1909.
In 1918 Wainwright was promoted to Chief of Staff of the 82nd Infantry Division. Later he held the same position in the 3rd US Army.
Wainwright took over the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Myer in 1936. Two years later he was promoted to brigadier general and in February 1940 was sent to the Philippines to serve under General Douglas MacArthur. Wainwright was placed in command of the North Luzon Force.
The Japanese Air Force attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the 7th December 1941. The following day they carried out air strikes on the Philippines and destroyed half of MacArthur's air force. MacArthur was much criticized for this as he had been told to move his airforce after the raid on Hawaii the previous day.
The Japanese Army also invaded the Philippines and they soon held the three air bases in northern Luzon. On 22nd December the 14th Army landed at Lingayen Gulf and quickly gained control of Manila from the inexperienced Filipino troops. Although only 57,000 Japanese soldiers were landed on Luzon it had little difficulty capturing the island.
General Douglas MacArthur now ordered a general retreat to the Bataan peninsula. A series of Japanese assaults forced the US defensive lines back and on 22nd February, 1942, MacArthur was ordered to leave Bataan and go to Australia. General Wainwright remained behind with 11,000 soldiers and managed to hold out until the beginning of May.
Wainwright was captured and took part in what became known as the Bataan Death March. He subsequently transported to Manchukuo where he remained a prisoner until the end of the Second World War.
Jonathan Wainwright was awarded the Medal of Honor and on 5th September 1945 was promoted to full general. He retired from active duty on 31st August 1947 and lived in San Antonio until his death on 2nd September 1953.